TOKYO: A man set himself ablaze on board a moving bullet train in Japan on Tuesday, killing himself and a woman, in an unprecedented incident on a network with an enviable safety record.
Several other passengers were hurt after the man doused himself in flammable liquid and sparked a cigarette lighter at the front of the train as it hurtled through the countryside around 70 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
Reports said a blast was heard from a toilet stall, filling the front carriage with choking white smoke, and bringing the train to an emergency stop as passengers rushed through carriages to get away.
Media reported that the driver of the train, which had more than 800 passengers on board, found the still-burning body of the man. The train’s top speed is 300 kilometres per hour but it was unclear how fast it was travelling at the time.
“We have been informed that there was a passenger in a car on the train who covered him or herself with oil and set it on fire,” a spokesman for operator JR Central said.
The train involved in Tuesday’s incident — a super-fast Nozomi bullet train — was travelling from Tokyo towards Osaka when the blaze erupted near Odawara, southwest of the capital. Footage from inside the train after the fire showed passengers blinking and coughing as they crawled along the aisle to evacuate.
Several had soot-blackened faces and some seemed confused and upset.
“In the very front of the first car, he emptied and sprinkled (liquid) from a plastic container... then he poured it on his body and set it alight,” one man said.
Another passenger told a journalist he had spoken to the man moments before he set himself on fire.
“He told me ‘Go to the back, it’s dangerous’. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I put my stuff away and thought about walking toward the back, then he pulled out a plastic tank,” the man said.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2015